Maple Syrup Processing
Maple sap is collected from the Northeastern United States and Canadian Sugar Maples, the only region in the world where the process can be completed. Due to the freezing nights and thawing days of early spring, the sugar content in the sap is optimal. This is the only season the sap can be collected; usually from the end of February to the end of March. As the temperatures warm, the sap spoils and becomes “buddy” from the opening spring buds. “Buddiness” is a taste that every sugar maker recognizes as being bitter. A Small hole is drilled into each maple tree and a spike is then lightly tapped in for collection of the sap. This process is known to the sugar maker as tapping. Traditionally, sap then drips into buckets and waits for collection. For mass sap collection, many trees are tapped and connected to a series of plastic tubing and then routed to one central location. Gravity and pumps are used to keep the sap moving into collection tanks. Only about 10% of a trees sap is collected every season. This does not affect the trees health, but is similar to donating blood with the human. After the collection of the maple sap, it is then boiled to evaporate water and achieve the syrup consistency. It takes approximately 35-50gallons of maple sap to create one gallon of syrup after evaporation. This is the consistency that one would eat on pancakes or French toast. The syrup is then filleted and bottled to sell or use on the table. Maple syrup can be boiled down further to be left with pure maple sugar, also referred to as maple candy. This is a product that children and adults love and is 100% natural.
The Howles Family currently uses multiple methods of collecting and boiling sap. Currently, about 1500 trees are tapped each year; some of which are owned and others are rented. There are about 400 buckets collected daily. Also, Plastic tubing carries the sap to one location for pick up at the end of each day. This process is much faster than buckets but can only be used in certain areas due to gravity flow process. At some locations vacuum systems are utilized to speed the flow. The sap is hauled back to the sugarhouse where it is then filtered of any impurities. After being filtered the sap awaits being processed through a reverse osmosis system. Reverse osmosis is the same process of purifying water. The sap is pumped at high pressure through tightly wound filters called membranes. The sugar is handled as an impurity of the water and is left behind. The water passes down the drain and the sugar water is then boiled down further. The reverse osmosis machine eliminates 75% of the water in the sap during the production process, saving a lot of boiling time. The concentrated sap is then boiled in a solid stainless steel 3′ x 8′ wood fired evaporator until it evaporates to syrup consistency. At this point it is drawn out of pans with a state of the art computerized draw system. This system assures perfect quality and taste. The maple product is then filtered and packaged accordingly.
Maple syrup is packaged in multiple ways. The Howles family uses glass leaf shaped bottles, which give off a more antique and classy look that most people like. This is a best seller along with the plastic containers used to bottle. The plastic containers are available in sizes for a half pint to a gallon jug of maple syrup. Wholesale quantities are also available to local and out of state restaurants. This gives the restaurant the opportunity to provide the customers with the best tasting breakfast and still be cost efficient. Maple sugar and candy come packaged in a variety of ways. The sugar is molded into small maple leaf shapes and packaged in either bags of certain quantities, or in boxes similar to boxes of chocolates. Crushed maple sugar in bags is also available, which can be used in place of brown sugar or to sprinkle on ice cream & make delicious milkshakes.